July 18, 2012
One of the things I love about traveling is that no place is too far. Back home, a 4 hour train ride at 6 in the morning is probably the last thing anyone wants to do but when you’re abroad, it sounds like the perfect way to spend the day (the day before finals might I add).
So Wednesday, Jillian, Rose and I met at 6:30 am and walked down to Falmer station. We could have taken a later bus but after Dover we decided it would be best to take an early train there to avoid any problems getting back. We were headed to Salisbury, the town closest to Stonehenge. After 3 hours and 2 train changes, we arrived in Salisbury. Right outside the station was a stop for Stonehenge where you could purchase your ticket for the day. 22 pounds (roughly $35) got you a ticket to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral and an all day ticket for any tour bus. We hopped on the bus and made the 30 minute ride over to Stonehenge. We were sitting at the very front of the second floor on the bus so we got a great view. The ride consisted mostly of rolling green hills- typical English countryside. We noticed a few drops of rain as we closed up on our destination but we had all become pros at sightseeing in the pouring rain. Fortunately, the rain remained quite mild for the entire day. We pulled up, literally, to Stonehenge and grabbed our audio guides that we never even listened to. It was around 10:30 am so the sight wasn’t very crowded, which made it even better.
Rather than going into thousands of years of history that isn’t even confirmed (click the Stonehenge link above), I’ll just say that Stonehenge was definitely worth seeing. The area is roped off so you can’t go right up to it but it’s one of the wonders of the world and the mysteries surrounding it are pretty amazing.
Finished with Stonehenge, we headed back into Salisbury center to see the cathedral and get some lunch. I desperately wanted Indian food so we found a small place while walking and decided to try it out. We were pretty hesitant as soon as we walked in and saw that no one was there but the menu looked great so we gave it a shot. I ordered vegetable samosas and Lamb Vindaloo, two of my favorites. Neither dish was disappointing and I managed to find room in my stomach for every last bite.
After lunch, we made our way over to Salisbury Cathedral. Honestly, none of us knew much about the Cathedral when we first came to Salisbury but visiting it was the best decision we made. Salisbury Cathedral is over 750 years old and boasts the largest spire in all of Britain at over 400 feet tall. Like every great medieval cathedral, this one is covered in amazing sculpture and the inside is just as impressive. For those who haven’t read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (you must), the cathedral was one of the several that Ken used in his inspiration for the cathedral in the book (& now mini series). The inside of the cathedral was full of intricate arches, carvings and colorful stained glass windows. I had already decided this was one of the most magnificent cathedrals I had ever been in when one of the employees came up to me and asked if I was here to see the Magna Carta.
I stopped and panicked slightly. There was no way the Magna Carta was in this cathedral, certainly not one of the originals. Apparently, there was a way. Salisbury Cathedral is home to the best preserved original Magna Carta in the world- there are only 4 remaining. This is the kind of stuff I live for. Magna Carta (Latin for “Great Charter”) is one of the most celebrated documents in English history. It was a solution to a political crisis in Medieval England but it influenced the rest of history. It was the first document where the King (& political leaders today) was no longer above the law. Also, it stated that the only law was the law of the land and the King’s will was no longer arbitrary. This document was a huge influence during the colonization of America when the colonies were setting up their own governments and even today, the fundamentals of the Magna Carta still hold true. As a history & politics nerd, I really couldn’t believe that I got to see such an important document that was thousands of years old (it was created in 1215). I was on such a high afterwards that it didn’t even matter that we got caught in a torrential downpour while walking back to the train station.